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Maple Leafs claim bragging rights

Ottawa is capital city, but Toronto is top place in Ontario

Posted: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

TORONTO The Ottawa Senators still haven't figured out how to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So for the fourth time in five years, the Senators are going home early from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Ed Belfour made 36 saves, and Joe Nieuwendyk scored twice on a shaky Patrick Lalime as the Maple Leafs advanced to the second round by beating the Senators 4-1 Tuesday night in Game 7.

''It's tough to swallow,'' Senators defenseman Wade Redden said.

Ottawa is 0-4 in series against Toronto and 0-4 in Game 7s overall. The Senators avoided the Maple Leafs in last year's playoffs and reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals before losing to Stanley Cup champion New Jersey.

Asked if their inability to beat Toronto is mental, Redden said: ''That was the hurdle we didn't get over. If you look at the injuries they had, they found a way to get it done, and that's something we didn't do.''

The Maple Leafs, who led 3-0 after the first period, will meet the Flyers in the second round beginning with Game 1 on Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Toronto enforcer Tie Domi sparked his team by assisting on the first goal. Nieuwendyk added two weak goals on Lalime, who was replaced by backup Martin Prusek to start the second.

''It's not the way you want it to end,'' Lalime said. ''They were both bad goals.''

Following Ottawa's double overtime victory in Game 6 on Sunday, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk predicted his team would win Game 7 easily.

''We're going to kill 'em,'' he said.

''A big inspiration was Eugene Melnyk's comments,'' Domi said.

Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson also vowed his team would win the series after the Senators lost Game 5. It wasn't to be, largely because of Lalime's poor play. The goalie, who struggled this season, allowed three goals on just 11 shots.

''It's a real empty feeling,'' Alfredsson said. ''We beat ourselves. We didn't make the most of our opportunities. Our power play wasn't good enough. Belfour was really good in the series, but I don't think that's what beat us.''

Belfour, who tied an NHL record by recording three shutouts in series, looked spectacular again. Fans chanted 'Ed-die, Ed-die!' throughout.

Toronto won the series despite being outshot 238-154, and Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn called Belfour his best player earlier in the day.

Asked what the Maple Leafs do better than the Senators, Belfour said: ''We stuck with it. We have a never-say-die attitude, and home-ice advantage was huge for us.''

The Maple Leafs were helped by quick starts, setting an NHL record by scoring first in all seven games.

Toronto won the series despite the absence of captain Mats Sundin for the final three games because of a lower body injury. Owen Nolan missed the entire series because of a knee injury.

''You have to credit their goalie. Eddie was the difference,'' Ottawa coach Jacques Martin said. ''When you look at the chances tonight, we more than doubled them. I think he was the factor the whole series.''

Domi sparked Toronto by checking defenseman Anton Volchenkov into the boards, stripping the puck from him, and skating behind the net. Domi then turned and passed to Chad Kilger, who scored at 6:19 of the first.

Less than a minute and a half later, Nieuwendyk beat Lalime with a wrist shot from the side of the boards.

Nieuwendyk put another wrister through Lalime's pads with 21 seconds left in the period. Lalime slumped to the ice and shook his head in frustration.

''I know Lalime would like to have a couple of those back,'' Nieuwendyk said. ''He played a terrific series, but our goalie played a little bit better. We're awfully excited to be moving on.''

Ottawa's Vaclav Varada cut Toronto's lead to 3-1 just 22 seconds in the second period, but the Senators couldn't close the gap and went 0-for-3 on the power play in the period.

The Senators, who ranked No. 1 in the NHL with the man advantage during the regular season, went 3-for-35 against Toronto.

Bryan McCabe gave the Maple Leafs a 4-1 lead at 7:59 of the third.

Notes: Toronto lost 6-1 at Philadelphia in the seventh game of its first-round series last year. ... Toronto is 5-0 in Game 7 at home since losing to Los Angeles in 1993. ... During the regular season, Toronto lost three in a row to Philadelphia before a 3-2 road win March 18.



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